After weeks of speculation, the San Francisco Giants are finally signing a former Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher who hit free agency this offseason.

The pitcher many fans have been clamoring for the team to sign, Trevor Bauer, remains available, but the Giants agreed to terms with another veteran starter, Anthony DeSclafani, on a one-year, $6 million deal for the 2021 season that allows for DeSclafani to make an additional $250,000 in performance bonuses.

DeSclafani, 30, is a six-year major league veteran who spent the previous five seasons in Cincinnati’s rotation. The New Jersey native struggled throughout a rough 2020 season in which he battled a back injury and posted a 7.22 ERA in nine appearances (seven starts), but owns a career 4.29 ERA and was an above-average pitcher during the 2019 season.

The Giants have been rumored to be interested in DeSclafani’s former teammate, Bauer, but the 2020 National League Cy Young Award winner remains an option for several others clubs including the Mets and Angels who are looking for a front-of-the-rotation ace.

DeSclafani joins a Giants staff that’s now heavy on right-handed starting options. The club lost lefty Drew Smyly to the Braves in free agency, but returns right-hander Kevin Gausman who signed a qualifying offer this offseason as well as veteran Johnny Cueto and young Northern California native Logan Webb. In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Giants manager Gabe Kapler also said righty Tyler Beede could be throwing off the mound by the time spring training begins after Beede underwent Tommy John surgery last spring.

A deal in the range of $6 million indicates the Giants view DeSclafani as a starter, but if the righty struggles again, he could fill the role veteran Trevor Cahill held in 2020 moving back and forth from the rotation to the bullpen on an as-needed basis.

The addition of DeSclafani isn’t expected to preclude the team from seeking more help in its rotation, but his signing could compel Zaidi to pursue more left-handed options in an effort to create more balance.


Another buy-low project?

After Giants coaches helped Gausman and Smyly enjoy bounce back seasons in 2020, Zaidi said he thinks pitchers looking to reestablish their value view San Francisco as an attractive destination in free agency.

The organization is hoping it can help DeSclafani rediscover the form he showed in 2017 and 2019, when he was one of the more reliable starters in the National League and was able to generate more swings and misses with his curveball.

After hitters posted a .161 expected batting average and .281 expected slugging percentage against his curve in 2019, DeSclafani struggled with the pitch last season as those numbers soared to .328 (xBA) and .506 (xSLG) respectively. To make matters worse, hitters whiffed at his curveball nearly 40% of the time DeSclafani threw it in 2019, but only swung and missed against 14.3% of his curves last season.

Regaining his curveball will be key to DeSclafani’s success, but it’s the slider that could make or break the signing for the Giants. The right-hander threw his slider on 31.6% of his pitches last season, up from 24.3% in 2019. Opposing batters went 8-for-42 with 10 strikeouts and two home runs against DeSclafani’s slider, making it his most effective pitch.

If the Giants coaching staff can help DeSclafani successfully mix his curve and slider with a fastball that hovers around 94 miles per hour, they could have an effective middle-of-the-rotation starter that turns out to be a bargain.

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